“But we are fragile beings, so maybe we need to split until our meditation becomes more steady and supportive. That’s okay. In meditation, just notice how you’ve split. Notice how the gap feels in your body. Allow the split itself become the focus of your meditation. It doesn’t matter what kind of pain it is; open into it with your kind attention and it will take you where you need to go.” Nothing Holy About It, Tim Burkett, page 101
It is so easy to forget how fragile we are.
Last week, I was driving to the DMV office to transfer my plate to my vehicle that my parents just sold me. And some lights came on regarding the ABS brakes and tracking features. I instantly went numb. Another crisis? I went to my parents’ house and broke down emotionally. It turns out, so far, that it was just a light coming on and it hasn’t come on since.
People keep asking me what I want and need. The answer? To go a month or more without some new, bizarre trauma sucking up my time and attention.
In lieu of that, the best I can settle for is the friendly, open space of a friend that lets me vent however and whenever necessary. Meditation can provide some space, but may only end up allowing the full trauma to surface without the necessary supports to handle it.
I understand how and why people go postal, shoot randomly into movie theaters, get strange revenge on people, etc. I get it. People can only take so much. People need space and compassion and don’t always get it.
“But Buddha didn’t separate from his emotions. That just creates conflict between who we are and who we think we should be. Buddhism is about acceptance. How are we going to see our negative emotions if we keep pushing them away with our judgments and criticism? Clear seeing—vidya—is the beginning of freeing.” Nothing Holy About It, by Tim Burkett, p. 74
This is where I am. Many years ago, I decided that I was going to deal honestly with my feelings and not worry about what the world thinks. I have little to no tolerance for pretense.
Where I am is awful. Imagine having all your issues (fears, insecurities, hypocrisies, resentments, etc.) being tripped at once. I know I have hit the center of the onion because I alternate between feeling like someone is sitting on my chest and being nauseous.
I never thought my life would come to this: taking care of Barry, getting the house ready for eventual sale, car problems, and friendship problems, all at once. And now that I am back on my anti-depressant, I have enough energy to bawl my eyes out at random times. Before, I was just too tired. Now I have the energy to feel and a little denial would sure come in handy right about now. Continuing to feel this way would make life not worth living. No one should have to feel like this indefinitely. Logically, and Buddhist-ly, I know that all things, including emotions, are fleeting. But “fleeting” has been going on for about seven years now. And I’m sooooo ready for it to end.
My mammogram turned out normal and, I admit it, I am a little disappointed. I want this misery to be over, even if it means I am history. I’ve accomplished some of what I’ve wanted to and I’m good with that. So I’m back to hoping Barry dies soon, seeing as I’m likely to keep living.
So now I’m left with a life I am uninterested in maintaining. That goes on and on and on…
Vidya may not be that valuable after all. I clearly see my misery and hope that someday it may end. Greeeeeaaaat. Vidya sucks, at least for the time being.
“Emperor Wu of Liang asked the great master Bodhidharma, “What is the highest meaning of the holy truths?”
Bodhidharma said, “Empty, without holiness.””
Emeror Wu had been trying to earn merit and Bodhidharma was unimpressed. Wu’s efforts, such as building monasteries and ordaining monks, were simply irrelevant.
What I love about the encounter is the negation of holiness.
As a former Christian, I have some understanding of holiness and, its Latin cousin, “sanctification”. Holiness and sanctification are excuses for egomania. The roots of these words is to be “called out” or “set apart.” To be set apart, in my mind, is also to be “set aside,” or useless in the ordinary business of life. Even in the church, people talk about folks that are “so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good.” I have seen clergy that revel in their “set apart” status and demand to be treated specially. They seldom get what they desire (or, more accurately, desperately need for ego satisfaction), making their pastorates never-ending sources of frustration. Their demand for respect comes at the cost of actually earning the respect of their flocks. It is painful to watch and I’ve seen enough of it for several lifetimes and then some.
Bodhidharma had no patience for such nonsense.
“Without holiness” translates into: useful in the real world, intimate with reality, up-close-and-personal, no separation (duality), humble, etc.
I am at a point where I am letting go of all that is not useful. Nothing is being treated specially. I don’t have the resources (time, energy, and money) to invest in things or people that serve no positive purpose right now. I am not capable of looking down the road more than two weeks. If you poke me too hard, I will break down in tears. I am barely coping with life this moment. If it’s not helpful or useful right now, it’s got to go.
Depletion greatly simplifies life and instantly prioritizes everything. Everything I previously considered holy is now gone. I had set them apart (aside) and, consequently, rendered them useless. Perhaps I could have found uses for some of these things (such as icons and bibles), but that would have “desecrated” them. That’s the irony: everything “holy” that demands special treatment is worthless in times of need. It just takes up space. It adds no value or merit to one’s life.
Bodhidharma was smart. He got it.
Everything I see reminds me of how little control I have over anything. So many things are happening and I observe the results.
I cannot “let go” of anything; neither do I have the energy to “hang on.” Things are what they are. I cannot negotiate because I have nothing: no emotional energy, no motivation, and no plans. There will be no quid pro quo because I have neither quid nor quo. “Shoulds” are meaningless. People can either cut me some slack or get used to me not being in their lives. I can neither go over, around, nor under my issues. I go through them second by second.
I have been reading this Buddhist book, Nothing Holy About It, by Tim Burkett. He talks about the traditional hindrances: 1. Sensual desire, 2. Ill will, 3. Sloth and torpor, 4. Restlessness and worry, and 5. Doubt.
What do you do when you can’t handle one of the hindrances? He gives five ways to train with the hindrances (p, 177): 1. Putting aside, 2. Letting go or just letting be, 3. Opening through the center, 4. Expanding our field of awareness, and 5. Cultivating a full awareness of feelings. You go down the list, trying them all. When all else fails, all one can do is to cultivate a full awareness of feelings.
That’s where I am. My hindrance is complete and absolute physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion, but the solutions are the same.
This is why I love Buddhism: it is so reality-based.
Is this what ADD people feel like when they are properly medicated?
I am so overwhelmed that I feel like parts of my brain have shut off. That’s what Ritalin does: it overly stimulates the brain so that the hyper part turns off completely. I am emotionally numb. In some ways, I have clarity, it seems like, by default. When you’re in the middle of a hurricane, you don’t worry about sweeping the kitchen.
My car is having problems. My parents haven given me one of their cars. (OMG. What would I do without them?) I have the mammogram and ultrasound next week. The realtor is coming by Tuesday. My best friend is disapproving of my behavior while my life is in meltdown mode. It’s not as if Barry’s health is improving. I still need to have my old car fixed and the dealership has not returned my call. Sleep is a hit-and-miss proposition.
There are so many things that need to get done that I can by continuously busy and not come near getting the things done that need to be by the time they should be. At the end of the day, I am exhausted and capable of no more. Then I have to let that go.
I realized a few days ago that I must let go of everything. No exceptions. Hopes, dreams, expectations of stability. Gone. I think I now understand one of Atisha’s slogans, “Abandon hope.” Why? Hope puts expectations on the future, which you may or may not have. Can a person live without hope? Not well, in my opinion, but sometimes you simply cannot look down the road, especially if you are not sure you have a road.
I am left wondering what, if anything, will remain in six months. Will I remain? When the dust settles, what will be left?
I cannot imagine living like this indefinitely, if you can call this “living” by any definition. I am a zombie, doing what I can from moment to moment. Is this how a lot of people live?
My life is spinning out of control at the moment. My car is having bizarre problems. I drove it to the coffee shop (Biggby’s) Sunday and it was on the verge of overheating. I went inside, had some coffee, and then decided to perhaps put some water in the radiator. I pull the hood latch, heard a noise, and then discovered that the hood had not released. Was that the hood latch I just pulled? With a car threatening to overheat and the hood possibly flying upward randomly, I have it towed to Tuffy. I go to Tuffy the next day. The car is on the hoist. I ask the guy what’s going on. He explains that I did pull the hood latch—and that it snapped like a twig. He goes to my car, walks back to me, and hands me my snapped cable. He explains that I need a body shop to replace the cable so they can even look at the engine. As he removed the car from the hoist, I just stood in the parking lot (holding my hood latch cable), dumbfounded, and said to no one in particular, “Really? Are you kidding me?”
. So I drive it to Sundance Chevrolet because I know they have a body shop (and everything else under the sun for my Aveo), after being reassured that it shouldn’t overheat on such a short trip. It comes very close to overheating and it will be a couple days before they get the cable and fix the hood and then they can roll it down the hill to their mechanics who can then look at the engine.
I am pushing fifty years old and have never had this go wrong. I’ve owned at least a half dozen vehicles and had everything else imaginable go wrong, but this is a new one.
This is after I saw a new realtor. I never heard from the old one again, so I had to get a new one. My parents graciously lent me one of their cars for as long as I need. Now I have a list of things I can start working on for the house, some of which I have been working on just as common sense.
Later my best friend calls. I am emotionally overwhelmed and cannot talk to her. I am on the verge of tears. So I hang up on her a couple times. She calls back and leaves this horrendously condescending message about how childish I am acting and that if I want to “act like a grown-up” and talk it out with her, I can call her back.
Her expectation would be perfectly appropriate and reasonable under normal circumstances.
These are not normal circumstances. I am at the end of my rope and cannot operate under the normal rules of engagement. She had the option of either cutting me some slack (and wondering what on earth is wrong with Cindy) or leaving the world’s most condescending message and waiting for me to call her back. She chose Door Number Two. Are you kidding me?
I am stuck in the present moment. I cannot make plans because I don’t know when I will get my car back. This is in no way “The eternal now.” This is TRAUMA. I have been handed more than I can possibly handle and I am frozen in place, paralyzed, “stuck” by any definition.
What I need to do is to ground myself and not detach myself emotionally from what is going on just for the sake of expedience. Detaching myself emotionally only leaves me dealing with the emotional trauma at a later date to reintegrate the scattered pieces of myself.
The goal is to be functional, not gain the approval of others.
To me, Buddhism is about dealing with all of reality, not just the easy or convenient parts. Part of compassion starts with oneself and consciously dealing with whatever is going on. The Buddha is all about grounding. He found enlightenment sitting on the ground under the Bodhi Tree.
I am currently “over the edge.” I cannot act like a mature adult at the moment.
One of the things I decided years ago was that I was going to be honest with myself about as much as I possibly could be. People are dishonest because social protocol demands it. Screw social protocol. There is a time for maturity and a time for just dealing with reality, if one can even handle that. This is not the time for social niceties.